Grief … Like a rollercoaster hiding in your closet

Today is … today.

A trip to a farm. “I’m in the back of a ute! I’m a REAL dog, ma!”

It’s the first of October here in New Zealand. This morning, when I realised the date, I also recalled, of course, what tomorrow is … October 2nd. Which was, and always will be, my first dog Griffin’s birthday.

And I realised something … I miss him, deeply.

Griffin came into my life when I was a 17 year old school girl, potentially on the cusp of making stupid decisions. But I didn’t need to. I had Griffin. I loved him and he loved me, and we did everything together. I still fancied boys, but I didn’t need a boy. I had Griffin.

Every year, we gave Griffin a present under the Christmas tree. It didn’t need to be food, yet he could always pick it out. And as long as the paper wasn’t that shiny stuff, he could open it himself, too. But he would always carry it to my mum to get the OK, first.

My Pop (mum’s dad) was diagnosed with cancer soon after I got Griffin, and a year later passed. I will always remember Griffin running happily into Pop’s house, which we were staying in to attend his funeral, and running around looking for him … he was very disappointed Pop wasn’t there.

And the last time Griffin saw Pop? Oh, it was so cute. My Pop was staying at my aunt and uncle’s. He was bedridden. I left Griffin in the car, and when I went in to see Pop, he said “I hope you haven’t brought that bloody dog …” A little while later, he asked me to bring Griffin in. And you should have seen that dog … he trembled with excitement in my arms. He just LOVED Pop. He only saw him almost weekly for a year, but in that time he really fell in love with him. My Pop had been a farmer and didn’t much get the point of pet dogs … but he did appreciate the personality Griffin developed – he was real people.

When I learned to drive, I took Griffin all over – always in a seat belt (see photo above). He came on family holidays to Nelson (~9hrs drive from Dunedin) and would bark at the front end of the car that stuck “out of” a wall on a business up there … not sure if it’s still there, but Griffin knew it wasn’t right. I still remember the mini rose bush he barked at and barked at, until I pulled off the offending bud that was hanging upside down … how dare it. He didn’t like helicopters much, either.

He wasn’t opposed to me making him look girly, either …

He helped me collect hedgehogs for a girl in the Zoology Dept. It was easy – send Griffin outside and wait for the special Hedgehog Bark. He had one for our cat Phantom, too (Phantom ran, so, yes, Griffin chased him … Misti didn’t run, so she didn’t get chased), and a whole other bark for other cats.

He came flatting with me when I moved out of home.

He attended parties and entertained my friends by rolling over and dancing.

He didn’t like baths. But he did pretty much dry himself … I would simply spread a towel on the floor and he would roll on it. Sometimes I had to remind him to get back “On the towel”, but he did well, on the whole.

In his later years, he had it tough. When he was 10, he suffered the consequences of ocular melanosis with an acute spike in eye pressure (glaucoma) one night. The next day, 19 April (I remember), he had his right eye removed and spent the rest of his years as a one-eyed dog. He had a fear of hockey sticks from then on, because the spike happened to occur when my, now, husband was pushing a hockey ball around for Griffin to chase …

In those later years, he even made it to Hastings once … That’s a long trip from Dunedin, and included several hours on the boat across the Cook Strait. He just waited in the car for us – he was always a good traveller … well, a good traveller after that first year (his first year, he would puke after 1.25hrs in the car … no exception).

His toughest year was his last. He’d been on a mild dose of steroids (Prednil, or Prednisone) since he was two years old, for allergic, itchy feet, and they started to affect him when he approached 13 years. He started having seizures occasionally, which were tough to watch. And he would go into a bit of a trance after and just wander …

Also, being one-eyed did have its disadvantages … Visiting a friend’s one day, Griffin was wandering about the house and managed to, unknowingly, corner one of her cats … oops. That resulted in a claw to his one remaining eye … and so he was on eye drops for that until the end. He didn’t have it easy. But he was a tough little dog.

Look, ma! A lamb! Cute!

In his final months, he spent a lot of time not really “there”. It was tough. I was pregnant at the time and spent quite a few nights up watching Griffin when I heard him get up and start wandering – I didn’t want him to hurt himself. Unfortunately, I think stressing about him didn’t make my labour any easier than it was already going to be, but so be it.

When I brought our son home from the hospital, I was delighted to see Griffin as his old self – he was truly lucid that day, and greeted Josh. But he was gone (mentally) the next day, and never really came back. With a new baby and ageing dog (seizing several times a day, and incontinent overnight …), the next couple of months were tough, but we got through them.

Eventually, I had to say goodbye to him.

I always knew it would come. And yet, I still haven’t made peace with it.

Most days are fine. Most days I can even think about what a cool dog he was.

The other week at the Dog Park, exercising our ‘new’ (and also lovely) dog, Lucy, we ran into a lady who was considering getting a Cairn (we were pleased when someone else arrived with one … Lucy isn’t a Cairn, she’s a bitser) … We gushed over what a great dog Griffin had been and whole-heartedly recommended a Cairn to the lady. It was one way to pay Griff tribute.

And today I write this.

He was with me through thick and thin. He never asked for much. He had a happy life. And yet … I wish I’d given him more …

One-eyed dog … Pirate dog!

6 thoughts on “Grief … Like a rollercoaster hiding in your closet”

  1. He was a beautiful dog, and what awesome memories you have of him. Sounds like he had a great life! I know what it’s like to miss a dog. Coming up two years now since my last dog had to be put to sleep for cancer. We got a new puppy a few months ago now and she definitely helps to heal the gaping hole in our family that Kali left behind. I’m shedding some tears for you, and hope you can get through tomorrow okay.

    • Thank you. I’m struggling enough today. It’ll be two years since we said goodbye at the end of November … another milestone to get over. Yes, having another dog does help. But they really are just like people–I miss Griffin’s particular foibles, and wish my son had known him. But he will have Lucy, and I’m happy I could give him that.

      And when they’re ill, their well-being is such a big part of your day-to-day … I think makes the goodbyes even harder!

      Enjoy your new puppy. Part of me thought “I don’t want to go through that again” … but, as they say: “Better to have loved and lost …” Wouldn’t trade those memories for the world.

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